Child off to School? How are You Dealing with It?

The term midlife is broad. Is it about age? Stage of life? Mindset?

Here in this blog, it is fairly general. One thing women who are moms have in common, midlife or not, is experiencing children growing up and the emotions that sometimes come with each step.

It's back to school time for those in the south. Those here in Canada don't return to school until September. For some moms, it means their youngest going off to kindergarten or all day grade one. For others, a child is entering high school. For another, it is a drop off at a college or university dorm.

If you are in one of these categories and feeling some intense emotions, let me assure you, you are not alone. The emotion may be fear, worry, loss, or something else. In most cases, a sense of grief is felt in that a mom feels her role changing. Her child is growing up.

It's okay and healthy to feel the pain of grief. Be cautious, though, of not getting stuck in it.

As far as fear and worry go, if you have a relationship with God, you have no need to worry. Worry will not help you. It will drain you.

God suggests you cast your cares on him. He is the only one that can be with your child 24/7.

Pray for your children, then let them go. Trust that God has a plan for them and will guide them.

I recall my second going off to school for the first time. I grieved. Our routine  changed. He would no longer be playing in the nearby room while I did chores or read.  But he would have new experiences at school. I'd tried to prepare him by putting him into preschool. He was shy from the get-go, so I had to trust God a lot to help him manage.

I decided it was time to sort through his closet to remove items he'd outgrown. That brought on more tears as I realized he would never wear those clothes again. They would no longer fit--it was part of ife.

I sobbed and felt the grief deep in my heart.

When my daughter was 10, we dropped her off at summer camp. I cried all the way home. I said to myself, if that was what the empty nest was going to feel like, I didn't want it.

Now I've been in and out of the empty nest a few times. I realize we adjust. As one counsellor put it to me--we also grow, mature, and change. We get tired of all the mom stuff and want our life back.

Whatever stage you're at, let me encourage you to simply walk through it. Feel the pain. Turn to God.

Don't get stuck in worry. Call on a counsellor or life coach if you feel the need for outside input. Talk to a friend. Trust God, and keep being the awesome woman he created you to be.  

Change Your Mom Role as Needed

I just read a post I'd made in Facebook that came up on my memory wall. 


Me: "I feel a little crazy with both kids home." (they were home from university).

Kids: "Why aren't there any cold cuts? I'm hungry, when is dinner? I need to go glasses shopping, I need new contacts..."

Me: $1000 in eye care spent in three days. 

In the partly empty nest, we flip flop in our role as mom. I was glad to have a sense of freedom when they moved out, but they expected the same old mom when they came home for weekends or holidays. That was something to get used to. What boundaries would I set?

Well-before that, I knew my role was changing. A book on the seasons of parenting tipped me off to change from mentor to cheerleader--to step back and not helicopter. 

But I've found, no matter what we think, we get surprised. Our child develops their own independent attitude--one with traits we might not like.  They may make decisions we don't agree with. We are tempted to set them straight.

We also can't expect all children to be the same. How we deal with our child depends on the personality of the child. My son has needed far more prompting and assistance than my more self-assured daughter.

Not everyone will understand why I do what I do, and that's okay. 

From Dr. Phil Show

I recently watched a doctor Phil show that disturbed me as I don't feel the mom had come to terms with the idea her daughter had grown up and that she needed to change her parenting style.

Yes, the daughter may have had a brain issue which caused her angry outbursts (her birth mother had taken drugs while pregnant), but the parents way of dealing with her now as a teen was, in my opinion, clearly part of her rebellion problem. 

The mom had rules you might give a five-year old. It was well past time to change her parenting style. From observation, I felt this mother may have been stuck in fear of losing a role she loved. 

One thing the mom wanted to control was her teen's cell phone activity. I know it is an oxymoron when Dr. Phil says to protect your teen by being aware of what they're doing online, but at the same time to not rip away their independence. It is a fine-line. 

This mom would take away the teen's phone which is why she rebelled in many cases.Taking away technology today is like rolling up the sidewalk and breaking off a teen's social life.

For most of us--adults too--technology use is a must. There is no differentiation between using it for work and pleasure. Teens need it for school work, to get messages from classmates and friends, and to use it for fun. 

I could be wrong, but I sensed the mom wanted to control the teen perhaps too much or in the wrong ways, which may be partly due to her not wanting her own role as mom to change. But her role must change. 

If you're a mom feeling a lot of tension between a teen or early 20-yr old, look at your parenting style. There comes a point when you need to trust the training you've done with your child and let them go. You need to take the role of pray-er and trust God to direct your child. 

A child who makes decisions on their own will learn from them. They will develop confidence when things go well, and learn to do things differently when things don't go well. 

Making decisions is the way God develops character in all of us. By backing off and trusting God, you will find more peace and freedom. 

When you feel frustrated ask God to show you if you are taking on worry you don't need to. Ask God if you are being too controlling. Set some boundaries about how far you will step in with opinions. Let your child grow up and separate from you successfully. 

Above all, show love and approval more than distrust and disgust. 

They Will Know you are Christians by your What?

The above meme refers to an old song, the words being: "And they'll know we are Christians by our love..."  not by our church attendance. 

Church attendance is still a tool many believers use, though, to measure not only their own faith, but that of others. If a person or couple stops attending church, some believers are quick to think they have lost their faith. The idea of backsliding stems from teaching popular in the 60s and 70s. But is lack of church attendance a sign of rebellion? Could they still be growing Christians and using their spiritual gifts out in the world of people God loves? 

Attendance Keeping

My husband and I enjoyed the friendship of several people at our last church, but I soon felt annoyed when I realized one sweet person looked for me each week. He became what I saw in my eyes as my church attendance keeper. 

I know many teach on holding each other accountable, but when health issues became pronounced and my husband and I missed church, I didn't want anyone taking note of it.

I talk about some of our backing off church story here. 

I tried to post a reply to a comment on this post about empty-nesters and the church, but for some reason, it wouldn't publish. So I'm going to address the topic here.

What to Do When You Don't Want to Go to Church

First, let me say, sometimes when I write, I later realize my doing so helps put into words the struggles of others. Since writing on my personal issues with church now as part-time empty nesters, I have discovered I'm not alone in how I feel. One former pastor has even written a course for how to be the church in an era of losing interest in the church. 

There has been no miracle in our lives where church attendance is concerned apart from me trying not to be so analytic about it. We go when we feel pressed to go. We tithe. We look at the service online and sometimes watch church on TV. 

Being the Church

What God has spoken to me is this: 

Those of us with lots of church background are pretty full now. It is time to branch out and BE the church in more ways than we have in the past. 

This idea goes along with the message God gave me a while ago which I describe in my book Help Me Lord, I'm Wilting. The result of that heart cry was God's response, "Bloom where you're planted." That means, get to know others in your community and use your gifts to bless, encourage, help, and minister to them.

My husband and I are introverts, but God has blessed us financially and with a lovely property. Recently, we've hosted parties with people in the community. It is unusual for us to do so, but each came together naturally. Our goal was to SHARE what God has blessed us with materially in an effort to use our home to BLESS others. 

Here are other things I've done to BE the church:

I also belong to a fitness group whee I try to use my spiritual gift of encouragement as I exercise along with others. 

My husband and I give financially to missionaries and charities. 

I prepare meals for my aging mother and put them in her freezer. 

I hire help for my yard work, seeking to be a light and to give generously to those who help. 

These are just a few ways we are being the church because the words of the song are "They will know you are Christians by your love," not by your church attendance.

I have more to share on this topic, but will do so in another blog. 

Seeking God in the Lulls of Life

I just came through three weeks of heavy focus. I was preparing to host a backyard party. That meant working on gardens, cleaning every patio chair we own, shopping for new cushions for some, and cleaning the entire main floor of my home. This was an intense 3 weeks, but I finally had the motivation to spring clean. I got it done.

The party went well. I think most were blessed. And that was my motive--to bless others. 

And I knew that once the party was over, I'd feel deflated. I always do. I am regrouping. 

Regrouping for me is awkward. I'm tired after the three-week purging and cleaning process. I have to be careful not to ruminate over all that occurred. I have to allow myself to rest and recover. 

I handled re-entry by going for walks, swims, and watching mindless TV. I've also snapped photos and resisted doing more work although I did mow the lawn. 

Use the Darkness in Your Soul for Growth

But tonight, darkness fell on my soul. I had great momentum with God as I counted on him to help me get everything done but now he seems quiet. I felt his hand in it all, but now I don't see his hand. I'm wandering through the house feeling lost. 

Do you ever feel that way? 

I'm asking God to protect my mind and to help me hear him again. And if I look back on other times when I've gone through times like this, I am reassured all is well--or will be well.

You see, in dark times, we seek God often in new ways. I may play more uplifting music, read the Bible more, watch more Christian TV, or fast. 

I don't like these lulls, but God works even in them. 

It is important I not feed the monster--the monster of doubt, fear, and boredom. It is important I not feed lies Satan whispers. It is important I not to get ahead of myself.

Intentional Prayers

I love making intentional prayers and this dark time calls for such. 

The book The Circle Maker has taught me to write prayers and circle them. That means re-pray them. But I like to actually put circles around them too. 

I decided tonight an intentional prayer I want to pray is for God to have someone speak into my life. For God to have someone present a new opportunity, course of study, or direction he wants me to head next. 

I pray God will give me patience to walk through the lull unscathed. That he will continue to lead and guide me. That he will use me to bless others. That he will open the doors I'm to walk through.

When I write my books, I want to feel so convinced of his mission that I commit to them. One new book has been going around and around. I need God to convince me he wants it published or to show me I should set it down. I love writing when I feel his hand on it. I don't love writing when it feels confusing. 

And so, these are but a few prayers I will pray during this lull in my life. I will use this lull to seek God and to look for his answers to these prayers. 

Midlife Marriage Cues

art by Rosalie Garde

Are you and your spouse seemingly battling about how to live in harmony in midlife and early retirement?
Women are Butterflies 
Studies have shown that many midlife women have opposite goals to their spouse. Women who've been more or less at-home moms, are ready to branch out in midlife or the age of early retirement. They are ready to burst out of a confining cocoon of taking care of the home and raising a family. She craves to be a little more independent. She wants new adventure. 
Those who've had careers don't necessarily want to hang up the work shingle, but find a new career that is stimulating and revolves around their personal interests. These women often want to travel or take new classes. Enrolling in college is not unheard of.  
Men on the other hand, are tired of working. Many of them become homebodies. Their nurturing side becomes more dominant. A quiet night at home is more appealing than going out. They question why their wife would spend good hard-earned money on college courses now.
Especially if a man has travelled a lot for his job, he may be ready to hang up his passport, in some cases. When the wife wants to travel and the husband doesn't, this creates a tug of war. 
As a result of opposing levels, conflict and fear may occur. She fears she's married to a boring mate who will hold her back. He fears the changes his wife is making. He is scared of her changing personality. He wants his old wife back. 
The husband may feel left out of the wife's new adventures that don't include him. He may feel her coaxing is nothing more than nagging. Yet her spirit craves he come alongside her. When he does, it gives her joy and hope. 
Let me give you a personal example. My husband is a couch potato evenings and weekends. Other than chores and errands, he prefers to be home. I, on the other hand, work from home. I go to my personal training group, socialize with the group, attend church, and go out for coffee with certain friends, but I crave new adventure away from the house, especially now that the children are grown. My spirit needs a change of scenery. I prefer to have my husband along. But he resists which worries my soul. It flattens it. When he complies, I feel joy and hope for our future. 
He works fulltime in a stressful job, so we haven't worked out the kinks yet. It's taking some time. I go to God with my needs and desires and await hHis prompting of both of us. 
Old Fashioned Rules
I recently interacted with a group of people from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). I had no clue they still followed what I term archaic rules regarding marriage. I was stunned to read anecdotes of what some pastors and husbands call the role of the submissive wife. 
While I do believe in wives respecting their spouse, being his helper, and deferring to him on big decisions they are disagreeing on, I also believe in the husband lifting up his wife, embracing her gifts and discernment, and loving her as Christ loves the church. 
Now, Christ doesn't dumb down the church. He doesn't demand all women stay home to raise their children and never make a decision. He calls some to remain in careers he's called them to. Christ doesn't treat the church as slaves.
The Wife is Not an Object

Some husbands seem to have an idea women are objects whose purpose is merely to fulfil him. Some SBC followers have directed women to read books that describe a woman's role as one where she isn't supposed to make decisions on her own, but ask her spouse about everything. 
One SBC pastor went so far as to say a wife should only refuse sex once in a 48 hour period. After he complies with the no, the next time he comes onto her, she is to comply. If she doesn't comply, she is being unsubmissive. One woman I interacted with (now divorced) was raped by her spouse when she refused to comply with his sexual advances. How wacko is that? That is not what I believe submission is at all.
Marriage is not about slave ownership (the woman being the man's property) as some are so misguided to think.
Men, if you're reading, check yourself as to how much of an entitlement attitude you have where your wife is concerned?
It's easy to cover up this master/slave perpensity under the guise of leadership. The man who understands his role to be the leader of the family may have a misguided view of this role. Some men feel it is their responsibility to control their wife because his own soul will have to take account for it to God. When she fails to comply, he feels justified to argue and put pressure on her.
Men, I've got good news for you, your role is not to control your wife, so back off. Remind yourself of what the Bible says about loving, encouraging, helping, instead. 
You see, you were never meant to marry a woman out of child-like dependency where you parent her as you might a child. 
You were not to marry to make up for what you do not have--the ability to cook and clean being one, a sex object, being another. 
What ways of interacting with your spouse need to change?
Let the Holy Spirit do His Work 
The difficulty in Christian relationships is that it is tempting to measure or judge each other's spirituality. The husband may have had confidence knowing his wife had been to Bible study, had private devotions, prayed with the kids, and served at church. When in midlife she seems tired of serving, can't handle one more church tea party, and the children are moving on with their own lives, change is occuring. 
I think a man might have a midlife crisis of sorts when he can't handle his wife changing. She is simply doing what God has designed her to do though. Ecclesiastes says there is a time and season for everything under the sun. A wife in transition is not to be feared. It's just a new stage of life. 
A wife who doesn't see her husband growing spiritually and sees him backing away from church may become concerned. They may be at different points in their faith walk. But if both are believers still abiding with Christ, it is not up to each other to monitor each other's faith. 
It is good to remind yourself that serving God is based on faith not works. That is, be careful of not becoming legalistic with your spouse. His or her private devotions are just as important as church attendance or church work. 
Each has the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit speaks to your husband directly. And husbands, the Holy Spirit speaks to your wife directly. You can pray for each other but you should let the Holy Spirit do His work. 
Do you trust the Holy Spirit to work in you and in your spouse?

What is Marriage?
Anyhow, to the point of how these ways of interacting in marriage applies in midlife.
Marriage was designed for adults where two COMPLETE people come together to adventure through God's path together. 
If you believe that, you will respect your wife's strengths and trust that you don't have to be her Holy Spirit. 
God is within your wife directing her too. Instead of fearing what you see, ask yourself what God might be doing? 
Bible verses say, God does new things, he raises dry bones, He is a God of new beginnings. That's exciting, not something to shun. 
What might God be leading your wife to do now in midlife that you can support? Wife, how can you gently teach your husband to support your new interests?
Women, you did not marry someone to mother, and you did not marry someone to parent you. If you have been in that pattern, it's time to break it. Adult up!
Understand the differences in men and women at various life stages. Husbands can ask about their wife's new interests. Husbands can develop a few of their own, or simply stay on the sidelines in support. 
Wives, go ahead and plan things of interest to you. You don't necessarily need your husband's permission, but you'd like to include him. Give him details and warning and book things into the calendar. Help him to understand what role you need him to play now. 
A personal note. Every wife likes dates, but chances are a midlife husband isn't going to plan one. You'll need to step up if you want a date. I pray for God to give me new ideas. I ask him where to go and what to do. Often, I'll come across a restaurant we haven't been to. Or, I'll picture us going to a movie or comedy show. I'll do the planning and tell my husband almost a week in advance. Chances are he has his own plans so adjustments need to be made. I've learned my husband is more apt to comply with adequate warning and details of my vision. 

To summarize, be the beautiful new free butterfly God has created you to be. Accept your husband has different ideas about how he wants to spend his days. Don't see the differences as conflict, but trust God has a good reason for making you each the way you are. 

Feeling Directionless in Midlife?

Some of my artwork - one of the passions I work on weekly.

We are made with a craving in our heart to find significance. Most of us want the significant things we do to be fun.  By midlife, our lives are often crowded with responsibilities or the opposite as life raising children winds down.  

Most of us fall into a pattern that feels like little more than maintenance. We pay our bills and work to raise the money to pay them or count on our spouse to bring in a good income. We care for our home--trying to make it into the dream home that fits our midlife fantasy.

When things start to feel repetitive, we might dream or fantasize about a different life.  This can be of value, or it can become problematic. It's never good to fall into an unsettled life where we feel our life isn't quite right. It's never good to spend our time focusing on what we wish we had, what isn't working, and what we crave at the cost of losing out on the peace and joy of the present. 

A life of striving to find the answer to what feels hidden is no life at all. Instead, slow down. Consider God has made the mundane days as well as the exhilarating days. God, in his goodness, has carved out for us the life he wants us to live. It's the life in front of you. Value it.

The apostle Paul says he learned the secret of contentment. With contentment is great gain. 

This talk these days about living in the moment and being mindful isn't so much new age as it is God's plan. (Remember, others have always borrowed or stolen ideas from God's Word for their own benefit.)  

How is mindfulness biblical? The Bible tells us to set our focus and make firm paths for our feet. It tells us to let go of the past and look forward to the new thing God is doing. It suggests that each morning comes with fresh challenges. We shout, "Today is the day the Lord has made." 

The Bible tells us to be good stewards to look after what God has blessed us with. That sounds like maintenance to me. All these things require living in the moment, paying attention to today.

When we dream, we may easily come up with lists of new things we'd like to do or pursue. I'm talking about more than a daily to-do list. Just today I had one of those thoughts of whether I should take a university course. That's the big ideas I mean. But we mustn't get ahead of ourselves. 

Sometimes others tempt us to dream such. Sometimes the enemy puts ideas our way to distract us from what we should be doing. 

In one sitting, you may come up with 10 courses of study, 5 places to visit, 3 projects to work on, 2 people to develop relationships with, and so on. But it's important to ask if these are God's plan? Are these ideas doable or affordable? 

Always check your motives. Always check who has influenced you.

If your life is like mine, it's easier to think about doing many of these things than it is to actually fit them into my day or budget. Nevermind trips and cruises, even simple things like shopping, doing volunteer work, taking care of our home, or working part time are not doable all at once. We need to determine our priorities if we are to see progress in any area. 

With so many options, we can become frustrated, feeling like we're going nowhere instead of feeling fulfilled. 

It becomes hard to satisfy our midlife cravings without some guidance.  To feel satisfied, we need not only the dream, but to feel God's blessing on it and to see progress on it.  We need to see our dream unfolding even if through baby steps. 

So how do we narrow our list of dreams? How do we put feet on them. We're going to need to narrow our focus.  We're going to need to make a decision about what to spend the most of our time and energy on.

One way we can do this is by narrowing down our dreams to a list of five. Yes, that means saying no to some things or putting others on the back burner.

As to how to focus your time daily, let me introduce you to my book on the sidebar called What's Next in Midlife. 

In it, I offer exercises that aren't so much about making a bucket list or listing dreams, but rather targeting in on the five top things God wants you to work on weekly. It addresses the question: What does God want you to dedicate your time and energy to? 

You can, of course, list your top five passions and come up with your own list too. It's not hard. Let me know your thoughts on this subject. 

Check Your Belief System

As mature women, it helps to be intentional about challenging our beliefs daily or even moment by moment. 

When I say beliefs, I do mean spiritual ones, but not only those. I mean to challenge ourselves to see how open-minded or close-minded we are too. 

Let's consider a few questions to ask ourselves about spiritual and mental beliefs:

Do I believe God is interested in every detail of my life?
Do I believe if I ask God to lead me today that where I feel nudged to go and what I feel nudged to do is from Him?

Do I believe God is always at work?

Do I believe God is at work in the situations that affect me?
Do I believe God is at work in my children's lives?

Do I believe God can heal me?
Do I believe where I am is where God has planted me?
Do I believe God will bring solutions to help fill my needs?

Do I believe God can call me to something unique at any moment? 
Do I believe God wants me to be happy?
Do I believe God wants to bless me?

Do I believe I have what it takes to do a good job?
Do I believe God will help me do what I need to do?

Do I believe joy is coming my way?
Do I believe I don't have to strive to make things happen?

Do I believe my efforts have value?
Do I believe when a thought comes to my mind that it might be God-inspired?

These are just a few questions to get you started. 

Do the Right Thing - It's Your Choice

Art by Rosalie Garde

Today, I want to cover the topic just now of DOING THE RIGHT THING.

As we look to the Lord for our strength and direction, we know there are activities he will call us into that we don't necessarily want to do. But we respond because he puts the idea on our heart and we follow through.

At this age, parents and older folk we knew when young are reaching their life's end. My mother-in-law passed away a year ago. Seeing these folk pass puts our own mortality front and centre. It's not pleasant or positive. 

Today, we visited the grave of my husband's parents.We were in the area and thought we should stop by to see that the plaque had been mounted on the stone as requested a year ago.

It wasn't a pleasant experience. This kind of thing stirs up discomfort. But it was the right thing to do. It was right to ensure the family's wishes were carried out. It was right to pay our respects. 

Do Good Deeds Because It's Right

Equally, when my mother-in-law was having physical challenges before she passed, I made several trips to help her downsize and to help her feel less alone. 

My husband and I toured about seven nursing homes in order to make a list of preferences when the time came. It wasn't pleasant, but I found it interesting. It was the right thing to do. 

Being plunged into the world of seniors wasn't good for us mentally. It was heart-breaking. But being there to help was the right thing to do. 

Backing Off May be the Right Thing

Before my daughter married last year, we argued. I didn't agree with some decisions she'd made especially marrying a man who didn't share her faith and who is a beer aficionado. I saw problems, while she only saw romance.

Eventually, the wedding was going forward and it was clear my input was to be minimised. I stepped back as much as I could. It was the right thing to do. 

Right now the right thing to do is to refuse to focus on the pain of the past or the errors or omissions I may have made. There's little value in second-guessing. Backing off from negative thinking is the right thing to do. 

A few years ago, I'd planned an activity I wanted my family to do with me on Mother's Day. Then we got asked to meet with my husband's mom instead. I didn't create a fuss, because it was the right thing to do. I hold some resentment still. I'm human. I need to let it go. Letting things go is not always quick and easy. 

What's Love Got to Do with It?

Instead of asking ourselves what the right thing to do is, we might ask: What is the loving thing to do? 

We might ask: How can I best serve others? 

As believers, it's even more important to take this seriously. We love and serve others because Christ first loved and served us. It's Biblical.

We only need to Read 1 Cor. 13 to know love is patient and kind, not selfish and rude. 

The Confusion

We resort to love and doing the right thing sometimes to protect relationships and sometimes to make peace. 

Our spirit may really want to do the right thing too. When Christ indwells us, he prompts us. I had great empathy for my mother-in-law in her distress. I wanted to help. Christ compelled me. 

At the same time, my schedule and earthly flesh warred at times. 

With the situation with my daughter, the same was occurring--wars over me wanting to be right and wanting to do the right thing which meant letting her go. 

I was so troubled, I sought mental health therapy to get me through it. 

A Spiritual Battle 

Such situations can easily put us into a spiritual battle. Do we set strict boundaries and push our own agenda? Or do we become peacemakers? Do we stand up for our rights, or condescend to theirs?

Fortunately, we can ask God for help and he will point us in the right direction. He will encourage us with a plan. He will give us strength.  

Do Good

Doing good is the right choice for believers as pointed out here:

Gal 6:9 “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” 

My mother-in-law was not always the easiest person to get along with. She was domineering at times. I could have said, "Why should I help her?" My human nature could have led me to want revenge or payback for the hurtful things she had said or done. But our faith says to love our enemies. 

I could have kept the argument with my daughter going. But the Word of God tells us how we should think and act as in this verse:

I The 5:15 “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” 

This verse is a stern reminder too: 

Jam 4:17 “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” 

We are Human, Never Perfect 

I won't say it's always easy to know the right thing to do. We sometimes fail. And when we do, we need to ask God to help us forgive ourselves.